City of Santa Clarita bus driver Oscar Magdaleno picks up people every day on his route. Throughout his years of driving, the rise of animal passengers has exponentially increased.
The Guide Dogs of America and the city of Santa Clarita Transit worked together on Saturday to provide a bus training course for the puppies-in-training, building their confidence one bus at a time.
“It’s about the controlled setting,” said Hanna Belyea, a canine developments assistant for Guide Dogs of America. “It’s slow. We allow these puppies to really get a full experience that’s controlled and contained to help them build confidence.”
Over 25 service dog puppies and their handlers had the opportunity to train getting on, off and riding the City’s buses. Three City buses were present for the training: a 30-foot transit bus, a cut away bus and a commuter bus.
Each bus presented a unique disability entrance to get the puppies familiarized with all of the challenges they could face.
“It’s pretty good for them to get familiar with the buses,” said Magdaleno. “They’re out there, we are picking them up every day, multiple times a day.”
Puppy handler Deanna Valenzuela appreciated this opportunity to expose her dog Gretel to environments that may make her uncomfortable, as it is best to do this when the dogs are puppies so that they have no fear when they are presented.
Leaders of Guide Dogs of America walked handlers through the proper protocols to take when entering the bus, such as shortening the leash, using the handrail and allowing the puppy to take the first step.
They all also had the opportunity to take a ride on the buses around Central Park.
No matter how many mistakes or mishaps were made, each handler continued to go through the training until the puppies were consistent and confident.
The puppies present ranged from five months to 14 months old, all at different levels in their training journeys.
Valenzuela’s dog Gretel will move on to formal training on July 15.
“I’m a first-time puppy raiser, so it’s gonna probably be the hardest thing I do, but probably the most rewarding,” said Valenzuela.